While the ionising radiation-related health effects on the human body are largely documented and studied, radiological and nuclear emergencies may also give rise to mental health and psycho-social impairments associated with the consequences of protective measures. As evidenced during nuclear or radiological emergencies, notably in the aftermath of the accidents at the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plants, these mental health issues may have significant socio‑economic impacts on the affected communities.
The NEA Expert Group on Non-radiological Public Health Aspects of Radiation Emergency Planning and Response (EGNR) works under the umbrella of the Working Party on Nuclear Emergency Matters (WPNEM) to improve the consideration of mental health and psychosocial impacts in the preparedness, response and recovery of radiological or nuclear emergencies. The group serves as unique platform addressing the non-radiological health aspects of radiological or nuclear emergencies, with representatives from eight member countries (Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States), as well as from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The EGNR recently provided input to the development of the WHO Framework for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies. The group is now working on a report which will serve as an operational extension of the WHO framework and provide practical solutions, approaches and tools to integrate mental health and psychosocial support into protective action plans. The report will deliver guidance to decision makers in member countries while planning for, responding to, and recovering from nuclear or radiological emergencies.
The group met on 14 April 2021 to discuss and consolidate the progress made on this report. The participating experts finalised the overall structure of the report and reviewed the practical action sheets for decision makers, either officials or specialists involved in radiation emergency planning and consequence management. They also examined the relevant main findings of a forthcoming NEA Expert Group on Recovery Management (EGRM) report on developing a post‑accident recovery management framework adapted to national conditions.